ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

GAO: Students Assuming Greater Share Of Public University Cost.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, students at public universities pay a greater share of the cost of attending than state governments, making public universities less affordable overall. According to the article, researchers discovered that tuition revenue in 2012 exceeded money received from the states the same year; tuition rose from 17% to 25% and state funding fell from 32% to 23% between 2003 and 2012. “These increases have contributed to the decline in college affordability as students and their families are bearing the cost of college as a larger portion of their total family budgets,” the GAO said.

On its “The Two-Way” blog, the NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5) website reports that the GAO said “median tuition rose 55 percent across all public colleges,” while state funding declined by 12%. The article also says the agency found the rise in tuition was accompanied by enrollment increases as well, although the report “is one of a steady decline in college affordability.”

Higher Education


The NSF is seeking qualified candidates for a permanent full-time Program Director position in the Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE), Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR), Arlington, VA. The ideal candidate will have experience and demonstrated scholarship in engineering research as well as in engineering related undergraduate STEM education practice and/or research. Search Chair: Dr. John Krupczak,

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University Of Illinois Suggests In-State Tuition Freeze.

The Chicago Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5) reports that the University of Illinois has suggested freezing tuition for in-state undergraduates in the fall of 2015 as “part of an effort to woo high-achieving Illinois students who are increasingly leaving the state for less expensive options.” According to the article, the proposal was discussed by the school’s board on Monday and is expected to be voted on Jan. 15. The Tribune also notes that the suggestion came as the school experienced a “record low 71 percent” enrollment by in-state freshmen.

Study: Larger Online Class Sizes Have No Impact On Student Performance.

According to Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5), a study by researchers from Stanford University found that “increases in online class size have no impact on student grades, student persistence in the course or the likelihood of students enrolling in future courses.” The article notes that the researchers pointed out that their findings could offer potential savings for colleges by increasing online classes and reducing their total number of faculty.

Obama To Discuss College Access During Knoxville Visit.

The Tennessean Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Boucher, Tamburin) reports that officials from Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville said in a statement Monday that President Obama will visit the school this Friday to discuss forthcoming plans to increase college access to more Americans. According to the article, the statement said Obama, who will be accompanied by Vice President Biden, will also visit the Techmer PM facility to discuss the administration’s support of manufacturing.

Groups Claim ED Estimate Of Teacher Prep Regulations Too Low.

Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5) reports that a number of higher education organizations, including the American Council on Education (ACE), on Friday said the Education Department “was lowballing an estimate” of the proposed cost for states and colleges of increasing regulation for teacher prep programs. The groups asked the Office of Management and Budget to re-examine the estimates and have them verified by a third party. Molly Corbett Broad, ACE president, wrote the ED’s estimates “consistently and obviously under-represent common-sense indicators as to their true cost.”

Op-Ed: College Ratings Plan Could Harm Religious Colleges.

In an opinion for the Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Hendershott), sociology professor Anne Hendershott of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio writes that the Education Department’s proposed college ratings plan, which she criticizes as being “less focused on affordability than on a vague definition of ‘gainful’ employment for graduates.” Hendershott concludes that the system will favor schools emphasizing industry and finance education at the expense of religious institutions and other “mission-driven” schools.

Kaplan To Refund Federal Financial Aid Under Settlement With DOJ.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6) reports from San Antonio, TX that Kaplan Higher Education “will pay about $1.3 million under a civil settlement with the U.S. Justice Department to resolve allegations it employed unqualified instructors at its Texas campuses.” Federal prosecutors announced the settlement on Monday, and said “the settlement isn’t an admission of liability by Kaplan or its affiliates.” A Kaplan official “said the company has always maintained that the allegations were untrue, adding they chose to settle to avoid lengthy litigation.”

#ASEEYoADiversity Three-minute video – Patricia Campbell: Math as a poor filter

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Research and Development

OSU Researchers Develop DNA “Robots”.

The Columbus (OH) Dispatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5) reports that researchers at Ohio State University have determined a method to “fold DNA into tiny, simple robot parts” which could potentially transport medication to specific cells. Although researchers have developed similar methods for targeted medication delivery, the article notes that “those were once-and-done tricks,” and the OSU research allows “DNA origami that can perform tasks again and again.”


Louisiana Panel Favoring Changes To Teacher Review.

The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6) reports that the Louisiana School Accountability Commission “neared final approval Monday” for a plan which would allow principals in public schools to override ratings of “ineffective” for some teachers. The plan would allow principals to dismiss the rating if they determine that “other factors” offset student’s low test scores, and follows complaints over teacher evaluations. The article notes the commission “endorsed the plan in general terms,” and a final vote is expected at the Feb. 2 meeting.

Industry News

SpaceX Will Attempt Its Reusable Rocket Test Today.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Dunn) continues coverage of Tuesday’s SpaceX Falcon 9 launch to the ISS, focusing on the company’s “audacious landing experiment” to see whether it can place the rocket’s first stage on a barge. On Monday, Hans Koenigsmann, vice president for mission assurance at SpaceX, “stressed” that delivering cargo to the ISS is the launch’s main mission. Because the barge landing is so unprecedented, Koenigsmann added that there was a “certain likelihood” something would not go as planned, and that SpaceX plans more experiments no matter the outcome.

Florida Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Dean) reports that SpaceX and the US Air Force are now negotiating using Launch Complex 13, “where John Glenn blasted off, as a future landing site for returning boosters.” Meanwhile, ISS program manager Mike Suffredini said that the Dragon capsule will bring “much needed” cargo to the ISS, adding that NASA is still enthusiastic about SpaceX’s work “to further spaceflight in general, and reduce the cost of spaceflight.”

The CBS News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Harwood) website also notes that Suffredini said, “We are extremely interested in the success of this flight in terms of getting cargo to the ISS. … But as an agency, we’re also extremely proud of our affiliation with SpaceX.” According to the article, because Orbital Sciences is currently unable to deliver cargo to the ISS, SpaceX is of “critical” importance to ISS operations.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg BusinessWeek Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Bachman) reports that even if SpaceX successfully lands its firs stage on the barge, a reusable rocket is “several years away” at least, according to Marco Caceres, a senior space analyst with Teal Group. Caceres predicted that by further lowering launch prices, SpaceX would open the satellite market to customers who currently cannot afford to send items into space by themselves, such as universities.

Engineering and Public Policy

Lubell: Congress Should Consider New Ways Of Funding Research.

In an op-ed for Roll Call Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Subscription Publication), Michael S. Lubell, director of public affairs of the American Physical Society, writes that it is “very troubling” that much of the “institutional memory about science and technology” in the House has been lost over the last few years with the departures of people like Rush D. Holt and Frank R. Wolf, who will not be members of the 114th Congress. The Senate will also have a “gaping hole” to fill. However, Lubell notes that there is now an opportunity for new members of Congress to consider new ways to stabilize science funding, such as “a research bank, administered by a public-private partnership,” that could help groups weather “unpredictable fiscal storms.” Lubell thinks that corporations should “readily agree” to invest in the back because they have benefited “big time” from research from agencies like “the NSF, NASA, NIST and the Department of Defense.”

“Advisers” At ED Used To Circumvent Gridlock.

Education Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Klein) reports on the growing number of “senior advisers” at the Education Department, including Robert Gordon, John King, and Ericka Miller, which the article frames as a strategy “for filling top positions without having to deal with the difficult process of” congressional approval for nominees. The article questions whether serving in an advisory role “without the fancy, official title” will impede President Obama’s education agenda, which former under-secretary Mike Smith says is not likely. “It won’t hamstring them at all. … It didn’t hurt me at all,” Smith said, adding, “It’s too bad we don’t have a better-functioning process for getting people appointed.”

Ducey Pledges Reform Of Arizona’s Education.

The Arizona Republic Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5) reports that Republican Doug Ducey was sworn in as governor of Arizona on Monday, and used his inaugural address to pledge “serious reform” of the state’s public schools. “It will be a first principle of my agenda that schools and choices available to affluent parents must be open to all parents, whatever their means, wherever they live, period,” Ducey said.

Minnesota Governor Focuses On Education.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Condon) reports on the inauguration of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday, pledging to deliver “an excellent education” to all the state’s residents. “If we’re going to improve people’s lives in our state, we have to improve their educations,” Dayton said. He added that to do so, legislators should allocate more resources to child-care and early education, as well as increasing per-pupil funding.

New Mexico Senate Leader Calls For Vote On Education Secretary.

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6) reports that New Mexico’s Senate President Pro-tem Mary Kay Papen on Friday said state lawmakers should vote on the nominee for public education secretary, Hanna Skandera, and cooperate with Gov. Susana Martinez on reforming education. Saying the governor has a right to her appointees and the Senate a responsibility to vote, Papen said, “We just need to get on with it… Hopefully we can decide on this and (Skandera) can get on with her business.”

Indiana Democrats Unveil Education Agenda.

The Times of Northwest Indiana Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6) reports that Democratic lawmakers in the Indiana House of Representatives on Monday released their agenda, which “focused on improving Indiana’s schools, the wages of Hoosier workers and trust in government.” According to the article, Democrats will seek to expand pre-K programs in the state, make attendance of kindergarten mandatory, and limit college tuition levels for public universities at first-year levels for each student.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Callahan) notes that House Minority Leader Scott Pelath also said Democrats hope to eliminate a fee for textbook rentals.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Study Offers Hope Against “Summer Slide”.

The Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5) reports on a study by Rand Corp. which found that a summer math program offered by the Dallas Independent School District and others suggested that students who spent the summer studying math performed better than peers in the fall. According to the article, the ongoing five-year study also examined summer programs in Boston, Pittsburgh, Rochester, and Duval County, Fla., and Dallas ISD superintendent Mike Miles said “we have enough information to conclude that these programs benefit children, and that children who engage in summer learning programs improve academic skills.”

Changes Proposed For Richmond Schools.

The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6) reports on plans by Richmond school superintendent Dana Bedden to improve performance by schools, which the school board reviewed on Monday night. The article highlights “three big changes;” new start times, and a later start time for high school students; extending teacher work weeks from 35 to 40 hours, and extending the work year for teachers “from 191 to the full 200 the state allows.” The Times-Dispatch notes that the extra time for teachers would be used for professional development.

WTVR-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Richmond, VA (1/6) reports in its coverage that the plan also includes “less micro-management by the administration when it comes to hiring qualified teachers, including more bilingual, special education, and advanced placement instructors,” the hiring of 41 new employees, and a $23 million funding increase for salaries over three years.

Editorial Slams New Teaching Standards In South Carolina.

In an editorial, the Columbia (SC) State Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5) harshly criticizes the opponents of South Carolina’s Common Core standards, calling the new standards developed by a panel to tweak them “an incoherent mess” and “a huge step backwards, a dumbing-down of what students are now being taught.” The State criticizes the Common Core opponents for complaining about public waste and then costing the state upwards of $166 million, and says the Education Department and the Education Oversight Committee should refuse to approve the new standards “unless or until” superior requirements are introduced.

Vancouver School’s Use Of Classroom Technology Examined.

The Vancouver (CAN) Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6) reports on the use of technology at Collingwood Neighbourhood School in Vancouver, where a smart board is used in each classroom rather than a traditional chalkboard; vice-principal Liz Hayes-Brown said the smart boards allow the infusion of technology in learning. The Sun illustrates how the technology assists in learning for students, especially English-learning and special needs students.

Kansas Students Receive New Chromebooks.

The Topeka (KS) Capital-Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5) reports on students at Royal Valley High School in Kansas, who are beginning the semester with new Chromebooks after the state Supreme Court ruled that equal funding had to be reinstated to poorer districts like Royal Valley. The Capital-Journal emphasizes the positive reaction to the new technology from administrators and students.

Home Schooling Growing While Regulation Declines.

In a front-page article, the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Rich, Subscription Publication) reported in depth on home-school laws across the US, focusing on those in Pennsylvania, which were relaxed in October following lobbying by home-schooling families and the Home School Legal Defense Association. The Times highlighted Pennsylvania’s shift as emblematic of the increasing number of home-schooling families, as well as the increasingly lax regulation and oversight, across the country.

Study: Smaller Schools Could Be Better Than Small Classes.

On its website, NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5) reports that an analysis by a watchdog group in Florida found that small class sizes do improve student performance for children in kindergarten through third grade, “but not in higher grades.” According to the article, the study by Bob Nave of Florida Taxwatch argues that smaller schools would be of greater benefit to students than smaller class size; the analysis showed students in smaller schools performed better in reading and math, were more likely to graduate, and had more extracurricular activities with fewer behavioral problems.

Student Engagement Program Profiled.

Writing for Alabama Live Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6), Larry Lee discusses the culture he experienced during a visit at Elberta Elementary School in Baldwin County, focusing on the implementation of the “Leader in Me” program used in Baldwin County schools and its positive effect on the students. According to Lee, the program “is about engaging students and having them understand that they are responsible for their own actions,” and records showed there been a 60% reduction in discipline issues. “Our kids have thrived as we implemented this,” former principal Hope Zeanah said.

Monday’s Lead Stories

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